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Australian shoppers want real-time interaction with brands
Fri, 28th Oct 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

According to new data from Twilio, the customer engagement platform that drives real-time, personalised experiences, Australian brands are missing out on the opportunity to provide consumers with a better online shopping customer experience through real-time conversational messaging. 

There's been an explosion elsewhere in the use of conversational messaging channels such as text, chat, Facebook Messenger and other similar apps with brands. But Twilio's survey found that nearly four in ten Australian consumers (39%) have never used these channels to message a brand about a potential purchase. 

In contrast, neighbouring regional markets recorded significantly higher adoption (i.e. 64% in Singapore, 78% in Indonesia and 70% in India). 

Traditional messaging remains the default channel to communicate with brands, with an overwhelming preference for SMS (52%). This is despite data indicating that 81% of consumers are more likely to do business with a brand that allows you to start a conversation with them over a messaging channel. 

83% of Australians surveyed said they would be more likely to complete a purchase if they could message a brand in real-time.

Twilio engaged Lawless Research to survey 3,900 consumers in 10 countries: Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Mexico, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States, Indonesia, and India. 

“Our survey tells us that Aussie consumers are hungry for deeper, more meaningful engagement with brands. However, there are many who have yet to experience real-time interactions through conversational messaging. What we’re seeing here is a big opportunity for brands to close the experience gap, prioritise building trust over transactional engagements,” says Kristen Pimpini, Regional Vice President, ANZ at Twilio.

Australian digital bank Up gained over half a million customers through its ultra-friendly mobile app that supports and communicates with their Gen-Z and millennial customers the way they prefer, including chat threads in-app and texting important info fast. 

While one-to-one chat is at the heart of Up's comms, Twilio's Programmable Messaging platform enabled the bank to scale and streamline its use of mobile messaging. As a result, over the past two years, Up has sent more than ten million messages to customers to help them reach their financial goals.

“The role of conversational messaging in solidifying relationships that generate both loyalty and bottom-line growth has never been more critical”, adds Kristen Pimpini. 

“We’re entering a challenging period in Australia, where we will start to see considerable impact of mounting inflation and costs on consumer confidence. Organisations are in the position to leverage conversational messaging to make connections with customers more meaningful and drive greater experiences and value from each interaction.”

The initial online shopping boom a decade in the late 2000s revolutionised the shopping experience, enabling businesses to scale faster than ever and reach a wider audience than they ever could. 

With smartphone adoption and access to cellular data becoming mainstream, businesses across industries launched digital storefronts with a data-led approach, including A/B testing, to figure out the best way to move consumers through the funnel. At the same time, plenty of the personalisation associated with a physical storefront was lost. 

However, over the past two years, with the pandemic briefly suspending the operations of physical stores, many businesses have moved to bring the "high-touch" experience. This has fuelled the rise of the distributed storefront powered by conversational messaging. 

Simply put, a distributed storefront brings the best of brick-and-mortar storefronts and eCommerce platforms. Where digital storefronts previously helped companies scale their brick-and-mortar storefronts online, distributed storefronts take this to the next level by allowing businesses to drive a personalised experience at scale by facilitating conversations via the customer's preferred platform. 

Ultimately, the back-and-forth of exchange helps create connections and fosters confidence in a brand's commitment to service. Whether they're interested, uncertain, or stuck on a problem they can't figure out, consumers want to feel heard, so removing their ability to reply frustrates them. Being able to talk to their favourite brands on their desired platform thus adds a new level of convenience to the consumer journey, letting them discover, explore, and eventually purchase products on any channel they are using. 

While the initial boom of the digital storefront added unprecedented levels of convenience to consumers, the eventual proliferation of eCommerce apps over the years - from individual brands as well as online marketplaces - led to platform fragmentation, causing consumers to be overwhelmed. 

Many consumers became increasingly interrupted by promotional emails and pinged with non-urgent app notifications. 

In Australia, almost half (42%) of consumers receive push notifications from at least five brands. Overwhelmed by the constant stream of notifications, almost 7 in 10 (69%) shared that they would "often" or "sometimes" disable push notifications. 

To maximise the full potential of distributed storefronts, brands must invest in collecting zero- and first-party data. This information, provided by customers, will help a brand understand what matters to their customers the most - their pain points, interests, and communication habits. Saving this information and building rich customer profiles enables businesses to cut through all the generic noise constantly thrown at consumers and, instead, build trust with them.

As the world continues to work towards post-pandemic recovery and back to growth, the behaviours that consumers have built look set to stick. Australian businesses would have to consider several macroeconomic trends while building their distributed shopfronts. 

Firstly, as inflation persists, consumers will be more thoughtful about their purchases. Businesses should thus invest in meeting consumers where they are and delivering the real-time answers they need to inspire confidence, grow loyalty, and make informed purchasing decisions. 
The progression of Gen Zs globally into their first professional roles, and a rise in disposable income, would also present new challenges and opportunities for brands. As the generation of digital natives, Gen Zs are more resistant to traditional ads than ever. To connect with this demographic, brands have to invest in the channels these customers prefer. 

Ultimately, the definitive shift in favour of two-way interactions has created opportunities for progressive businesses to meet people’s needs across the customer journey and to develop methods of personalising experiences based on each customer’s needs, interests, and history. 

As distributed storefronts open new lines of communication in the same windows that people use for chatting with friends and family, businesses can show up with welcome, timely, and helpful exchanges. Doing so will build consumer trust in the business and its offerings, foster brand loyalty, and drive revenue.